A Fishy Tale: Part 5

Why Act Now?

Now is the crucial time to act on Genetic Engineering in general, and GE aquaculture -specifically- for the following 9 reasons:

  1. Many Wild populations, such as the Atlantic Salmon, already face extinction due to non-GE aquaculture. Yet the risks of GE fish-farming surpass even the risks of other types of aquaculture- like over-fishing.
  2. Companies have huge plans for the future of this untapped GE resource:For example, the company, King Salmon (who killed all their GE fish and suspended research still intend to sell their GE fish) have kept the frozen sperm of their GE salmon in a ‘secure location’ until they can restart their program! (Associated Press, 2000).Research on GE aquaculture is in its infancy but it is growing! In laboratories around the world we already have:GE Salmon, GE trout, GE carp, GE catfish, GE tilia, GE shrimp, GE Arctic Char, GE Turbot, GE Flounder and GE Halibut
  3. These companies are not just twiddling their thumbs while they carry on research, such companies are actively pushing for full commercial approval right now! OPEN WATER TESTS OF GE FISH ARE currently BANNED THE WORLD OVER, but many predict the first commercial licenses will be given within a year!! (see note 22).
  4. A/F Protein and a dozen other MNC’s (Multi-National Companies) have already applied for patents for their research prior to commercial sales! (Schmidt, 1999).
  5. The ‘conventional’ (non-GE) aquaculture industry is increasingly trying to distance itself from GE in order to avoid even more public scrutiny and PR trouble. However, many within the industry are already preparing to use GE stock! For example, in 1999- 6 Prince Edward Island fish farmers formed a company called OvaTech to distribute A/F Protein’s GE fish as soon as possible! (Schmidt, 1999).
  6. Many in the industry believe their last remaining obstacle ispublic opinion and they are confident they will win this over in the near future!
  7. A range of groups and individuals are just beginning to take a stance against GE aquaculture. For example, the Tasmanian Government is currently under huge pressure from the WTO, Canada and various MNC’s to weaken its firm stance against GE Fish! (Bacon, 2000).
  8. If we act NOW on GE we can help to inform the publicBefore the Industry’s propaganda is stepped up, as has already begun to happen in Agriculture (e.g. Monsanto’s $billion campaign!).
  9. Finally, we should each act NOW to encourage people to challenge many aspects of our currently unsustainable, unjust system: people may start off concerned about their health when eating GE, then see yet another e.g. of Govs not only failing to protect us, but MISLEADING the public in the interests of MNC’s! The associated ecological, social, economic and cultural costs of GE must also be drawn into the debate and by each of us acting NOW we increase the chance of this!By acting now we can widen the discussion to show the links between GE and Monoculture, pushing for truly sustainable options such as organic agriculture. With GE fish, for example, it is important that we include a critique of the dominance and costs of existing Industrial Aquaculture!
Many in the industry believe their last remaining obstacle is public opinionand they are confident they will win this over in the near future!

ACTION?

The following ideas are offered to generate discussion. They are not meant to be prescriptive, or to limit the scope of action in any way. My aim in writing this paper is to encourage us all to think about what we can do, individually and collectively.

  1. Buycotts/Boycotts! Buy local, organic food where possible, there are often affordable options such as direct purchase schemes (box schemes, Community supported Agriculture CSA, etc). Try to avoid large supermarkets and big name brands. Don’t buy farmed fish! Ask about GE each time you buy ANYTHING!
  2. WRITE: To retailers, manufacturers and politicians.
  3. Inform ourselves – continue to read/discuss these issues, but try not to let the fact that we are not ‘world experts’ stop us doing SOMETHING!
  4. Distribute info – talk to people (family, friends, groups) – give out leaflets/articles, etc.
  5. Build Alliances, draw on existing networks, e.g. through concerned/active/aware groups such as vegans/vegetarians, community groups, church groups, etc.
  6. Offer positive alternatives… not just in terms of organic agriculture, complimentary medicine, etc., but also to those involved in GE research. Engage with your local University, see how they teach issues surrounding GE in various departments from molecular biology to religious studies/philosophy. Many students of genetics feel they have to be pro GE in all its forms, but this is clearly NOT true. Not only are there a growing number of independent geneticists, there are also numerous opportunities for genetic research which offer more creative, sustainable potential. For example, molecular biologists should investigate the physiological and environmental factors shaping ‘spontaneous’ functional corrections of inherited genetic diseases, rather than focus exclusively on changing and transferring genes .
  7. Take other forms of Direct Action: – e.g. leaflet pickets with groups/alone – supermarket actions – Government actions – actions at labs…new territory.
  8. Start or join a local group working on the issues of GE such as GENEaction!
Buy local, organic food where possible

Parts of the A Fishy Tale series:

A Fishy Tale: Part 1
A Fishy Tale: Part 2
A Fishy Tale: Part 3
A Fishy Tale: Part 4
A Fishy Tale: Part 5

References
Bacon, J. (2000) ‘Tasmania Will Not Back Down On Salmon’ Press Release, Feb. 20th.
BIOTHAI, KMP and MASIIPAG, (2000) Joint Statement to the Press. Available from biothai@wnet.net.th
BMA (British Medical Association), (1999) The Impact of Genetic Modification on Agriculture, Food and Health. BMJ (Brit. Med. Journal) London.
Daly, H. and Cobb, J. (1989) For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Towards Community, Environment and a Sustainable Future. Green Print, London.
Douthwaite, R. (1996) Short Circuit: Strengthening Local Economics for Security in an Unstable World. Lilliput Press, Dublin.
Dovers, S. and Handmer, J. (1993) ‘Contradictions in Sustainability.’ Environmental Conservation Vol. 20 No.3 pp.217-222.
FAO, (1995) “Review of the World Fishery Resources: Aquaculture.” FAO Fisheries Circular 886.
Friend, A. (1992) ‘Economics, Ecology and Sustainable Development: Are They Compatible?’ Environmental Values Vol.1 pp.157-170.
Golden, F. (2000) ‘Make Way for Frankenfish! – What Happens To These Ordinary Salmon If The Genetically Modified Lunkers Ever Get Loose?’ Time Magazine, March 6th. Available at: www.time.com/time/magazine/articles/0,3266,39961,00.html
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Healy, P. and Shaw, T. (1994) ‘Changing meanings of ‘environment’ in the British Planning system.’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers Vol.19 pp.425-438.
Healy, S. (1995) ‘Science, Technology and Future Sustainability.’ Futures Vol.27 No.6 pp.611-265.
Ho, M-W (1999) Genetic Engineering: Dream or Nightmare? The Brave New World of Bad Science and Big Business. Gateway Books, Bath, UK.
Jacob, M. (1994) ‘Toward a Methodological Critique of Sustainable Development.’ The Journal of Developing Areas Vol.28 pp.237-252.
Khoo, M. (2000) Fish Story. Unpublished briefing, available from the author.
Associated Press (2000) ‘New Zealand Salmon Research Halted’ Las Vegas Sun Feb. 26. available at: www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-
aus/2000/feb/26/022600535.html
McGovern, D. (1999) ‘Under the microscope we can build super fish, but should we?’ dmcgovern@divcom.com
Muir, W. and Howard, R. (1999) ‘Possible ecological risks of transgenic organism release when transgenes affect mating success: Sexual selection and the Trojan gene hypothesis.’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol.96 No.24 pp.13853-13856.
Rees, W. (1995) ‘Achieving Sustainability: Reform or Transformation?’ Journal of Planning Literature Vol.9 No.4 pp.343-361.
Schmidt, S. (1999) ‘Frankenfish or Salmon Savior?’ National Post (Canada), Sept. 4th.
Shiva, V. (1989) Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development. Zed Books, London.
Shiva, V. (1993) Monocultures of the Mind: Perspectives on Biodiversity and Biotechnology. Zed Books and Third World Network, London.
Shiva, V. (1999) Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply. South End Press, Cambridge, MA.
Traavik, T. (1999) Too Early Maybe Too late. Ecological Risks Associated with the use of Naked DNA as a Biological Tool for Research, Production and Therapy. Report for the Directorate for Nature Research, Trondheim.
Waisfisz, Q., Morgan, N., Savino, M. et al (1999) ‘Spontaneous functional correction of homozygous Fanconi anaumia alleles reveals novel mechanistic basis for reverse mosaicism.’ Nature Genetics Vol.11 pp.379-383.

What you have in your mind?